Tetanus is an infectious condition caused by bacterium called Clostridium tetani that live in the soil. This organism may survive for very long periods in the form of spores and can enter the body through any break in the skin.
- Sore Muscles
- Muscle cramps usually originating in the face (this is where the term “lockjaw” originated)
- Arching of the back from spasm
Who is at risk?
Anyone sustaining a break in the skin may be at risk of infection. Wounds of typical concern are puncture wounds from a contaminated source although it is possible to contract tetanus from lesser known sources such as corneal abrasions and insect bites. Since the discovery and widespread use of tetanus vaccinations, the US sees only 40-50 cases of tetanus a year.
Early and aggressive wound cleaning and evaluation of your tetanus booster status is essential to prevention of tetanus. Treatment for established disease consists of antibiotic therapy, a tetanus booster, and possibly an antitoxin to neutralize the effects of the neurotoxins released by the bacterium. In addition, supportive care will be crucial as the tetanus toxin has the ability to affect the diaphragm and subsequently your ability to breathe.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
You must see a physician immediately if you have a history consistent with a break in the skin followed by any of the symptoms listed above.
Tetanus treatment and shots are available now at Omni-Med in Florham Park, NJ.
For more information on Tetanus, see the following websites:
eMedicine Overview of Tetanus
CDC pdf on Tetanus and Tetanus vaccines
Medline Plus Overview of Tetanus
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